Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris)

Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) is a native British plant but the photo below is of one which was growing on a road side in the Poitou-Charentes region of France.


I have only seen the wild version growing a few times and recently (in the last 20 years) I have only seen it in France. There are lots of Columbine growing in the Wye valley woods but none of them are the true wild variety. Most are various shades of pink, some have semi double flowers, one or two are sort of purple, but they all seem to be affected by the various garden varieties. This pink version is growing in my bit of Ninewells wood, I may well find it a new home. I would prefer that it is not in the wood but it is welcome in my garden.
The BSBI seems to have given up on differentiating between true native plants and ‘garden’ types. This is what they say  ‘A. vulgaris has increased since the 1962 Atlas, presumably because of the increasing frequency of garden escapes. The native distribution is now totally obscured and all records are mapped as if they were native’

The blue one in the top photo was growing by the roadside near some woods in the Vienne department of France  was very lucky, because the vegetation along the side of the road had recently been cut, but the guy driving the tractor had obviously been so impressed by this small group of about 4 plants that he had cut round them and left them in all their glory so I too was lucky to see it. They stood about 1.5 m tall and were covered with large dark purple/blue flowers. They were amazing.
Now my Father used to have Aquelegias in the garden. They were a wishy washy purple and grew about 0.5m or as he would have said a couple of feet high. They had reasonable sized flowers but were easily overlooked. These will have been bred by gardeners from the original wild stock and yes I know you can get other varieties that are red, red and cream. purple and yellowy cream etc etc.  But I contend that none are an improvement on the original that I saw near Mauprevoir.
Another name for Columbine is Old Ladies Bonnet, due to the shape of the flower. It prefers the less shady areas of woodlands and so is often seen along rides or in hedgerows.

Here are a couple of close up photos, one of the wild type and one of a garden variety.




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